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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
David Washburn, EdSource
Fifty years ago this week, Latino students in Los Angeles shocked their teachers, their principals — and the world — by organizing massive school walkouts to protest their unequal education in the Los Angeles Unified School District. School authorities were caught unawares. They stood by dumbfounded as high school kids — fed up with the poor conditions of their schools, the indifference of their teachers and the subjugation of their culture — streamed out of classrooms and into the streets of East L.A., their numbers reaching as high as 22,000. The weeks of walkouts, called “blowouts” by their organizers, introduced California’s Chicano movement to the wider world and ushered in an era of school reform that is ongoing today. It is in this spirit that students across the nation will be walking out of class for 17 minutes on March 14 to both honor the victims of February’s school massacre in Florida and urge lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws. It remains to be seen whether 2018’s National School Walkout will have the impact or long-lasting legacy of the 1968 walkouts. But what is clear is authorities will not be caught unawares. School administrators throughout California have for the past couple of weeks been holding staff meetings, drafting communiques to parents and connecting with police in preparation for the walkouts. However, while just about every jurisdiction is making preparations, the character of the response varies depending on the district, according to EdSource interviews with superintendents and other district officials.
Kyle Stokes, KPCC
On March 6, 2013 — just like she did almost every year on the 6th of March — Paula Crisostomo called her former teacher, Sal Castro, to wish him a “happy anniversary.” That year, it was the last time they ever spoke. Castro was dying of thyroid cancer. “He did not have a voice any longer,” Crisostomo remembered; a phone call with “Sal” meant speaking to his wife, Charlotte Lerchenmuller, who would read her husband’s written replies aloud. But this phone call was important. She called Castro every year on the anniversary of the day in 1968 that students first walked out of Crisostomo’s alma mater, Lincoln High School. That year, Castro was central to organizing walkouts at Lincoln and four other East Los Angeles high schools to protest the unequal education Latino students received — and Crisostomo, a senior in 1968, had helped organize too. “Tell Paula,” Castro dictated to his wife, “it’s been a great ride, but the fight isn’t over.” Castro died a month later. “Those were his last words to me,” Crisostomo said. All this month, politicians, dignitaries, educators, students and community leaders will hold various ceremonies and gatherings to mark the 50th anniversary of the student walkouts — or “blowouts,” as some students called them — at Lincoln, Wilson, Garfield, Roosevelt and Belmont high schools. The blowouts were pivotal moments in the history of the L.A. Unified School District. Some historians even argue the walkouts, led by teenagers, were the beginning of an urban Chicano rights movement to parallel the political awakening already underway for rural farm workers.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
For a while, the nation’s three largest school systems all were on the hunt for new leaders, but now Los Angeles has the only vacancy. On Monday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio named Houston schools Supt. Richard A. Carranza as chancellor of the nation’s largest school district. In January, homegrown administrator Janice K. Jackson got the top job in Chicago, the third-largest district, about a month after being named interim chief executive. The New York City selection process was fraught with drama. Late Wednesday, the mayor’s office confirmed that the new chancellor would be Alberto M. Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The next day, though, Carvalho appeared at an emergency meeting of the Miami-Dade school board, which was broadcast on television. After board members, parents and students begged him to stay, Carvalho left the room to call New York and break off his engagement with the Big Apple. De Blasio made sure his next choice would be at his side for the announcement, which followed weekend meetings between the two men in New York. De Blasio told reporters that he formally offered the job to Carranza at 10 p.m. Sunday. The men appeared before the press Monday with their wives as well as exiting Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who is retiring. Carvalho and Carranza both figured in the Los Angeles superintendent search of 2015-16, but neither seemed likely picks for L.A. in 2018.
Alia Wong, The Atlantic
West Virginia lawmakers at last reached a deal on Tuesday to raise teachers’ salaries by 5 percent. The agreement—along with the prospect of policy solutions to the educators’ other demands—brought to a close a teachers’ strike that had kept K–12 classrooms across all the state’s 55 counties closed for nine school days. Even though the West Virginia walkout is over, however, observers suspect that it has jump-started a national movement that could have lasting implications for country’s schools. Evidence that the success of West Virginia’s roughly 20,000 K-12 classroom teachers is intensifying educator unrest nationally can already by seen. In Oklahoma, where the average teacher’s salary is even lower than that in West Virginia, educators are poised to stage a similar walkout, potentially in early April, to demand higher pay from the state legislature. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Oklahoma Education Association on Thursday plans to unveil a school-shutdown strategy; the teachers’ union said the vast majority of the 10,000 educators who responded to a survey supported shuttering campuses so they could strike. In Kentucky, a battle over educators’ pension benefits has raised the possibility of a teachers’ strike there, too. And other teachers’ unions throughout the country (and the world) have voiced their solidarity with their West Virginia counterparts through public statements, #55strong tweets, and pizza donations.
Language, Culture, and Power
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Immigration crackdowns are having a widespread harmful impact on children’s academic performance, school attendance and classroom behavior, not just among immigrant children but native-born students as well, according to a new national survey of educators. The survey, by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, looked at conditions in 730 schools across the U.S. and found that 64 percent of teachers, administrators and school staff who responded said immigration enforcement was having a negative effect on their schools. Ninety percent of administrators said they’d noticed behavioral or emotional problems among immigrant students and 70 percent reported an academic decline. Sixty-eight percent observed an uptick in absenteeism. “We’re talking about hard data, but going through thousands of comments from schools, across every part of the country, just broke my heart,” said professor Patricia Gándara, co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project and lead author of the survey. “Some kids are catatonic. Some kids won’t eat. Some kids have given up trying. The horror that’s raining down on these kids is stunning.”
Kyle Stokes, KPCC
In the wake of school shootings as far away as a Florida high school and as close to home as a Los Angeles middle school, a group of civic leaders, educators and law enforcement representatives will gather this spring to ponder this question: are students in L.A. schools as safe as they can be? L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer announced the convening of this blue ribbon panel on Monday, saying that while he had no reason to believe students in the Los Angeles Unified School District are not reasonably safe, “we can always do better.” “This is a time for all of us to be taking stock,” Feuer said, “of how we can assure all our students are as safe as possible.” The panel’s membership is still being finalized, but three former top officials have already signed on: former city controller Laura Chick, former state Supreme Court justice Carlos Moreno and former LAPD assistant chief Earl Paysinger. Another nine panelists are also on board, including two officers from L.A.’s main teachers union, two LAUSD students, an L.A. School Police representative and other community representatives. Once the panel is fully assembled, Feuer said it will consist of between 15 and 20 members, including possibly an L.A. Unified administrator. During the spring, the panel will hold several public hearings — Feuer described them as “town hall meetings” — in locations across the city.
Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas students-turned-activists are fast becoming a powerful model of civic engagement for educators across the country. Survivors of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., have taken to social media and TV, arguing eloquently for gun-control policies—and citing skills garnered from their Advanced Placement U.S. Government courses. They have successfully pressured major companies to drop their affiliations with the National Rifle Association and spurred thousands of students nationwide to draft petitions, plan walkouts, and start grassroots groups of their own. Now the example of their activism, coupled with an increasingly divisive period of policymaking following—and preceding—the 2016 presidential election, has advocates for civics education asking: Is it finally time for civics to get a bit more attention? “I think there is a resurgence and a significant amount of interest from many people who are concerned about the declining strength of our democracy,” said Joseph Kahne, a professor of education at the University of California, Riverside. “But by no means is civics education a central priority for reformers at this point, and I think that’s part of the case we have to make.”
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Victoria Pasquantonio and Elis Estrada, PBS News Hour
Middle and high school students have been sharing their thoughts on gun violence with the NewsHour since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. One thing all students agree on: Change is possible and action must be taken.
Anya Kamenetz, NPR
“There was a girl in my class who had on dirty clothes. The other kids laughed at her but I played with her during recess.” That’s an everyday act of kindness toward a child who is being ostracized. It was reported by an elementary school student who took part in a new, nationally-representative survey of children ages 9 to 11. The purpose was to capture not only the bad, but also the good of how children treat each other, and even a little bit of the why. Here are some of the key findings: 1) A large majority, 77 percent, reported witnessing bullying at some point. 2) 1 in 5 kids admitted to being a bully. 3) Only 14 percent strongly agreed that our nation’s leaders model how to treat people with kindness.
Elizabeth Kleinrock, Teaching Tolerance
It’s the middle of the year, and my fourth-grade class is reading Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, historical fiction about a Danish girl named Annemarie whose family hides their Jewish friend Ellen during the Holocaust. “What privilege do Annemarie and her family have in this situation?” I ask. “Their privilege is that they’re not Jewish,” responds one student. “They’re not being hunted by the Nazis, so they can go out and do what they want.” “How do they use their privilege?” I continue. Another student raises her hand and explains, “They use it to save Ellen because she’s not safe and they are!” So often when people hear the word privilege, it goes hand in hand with guilt. The word alone can be enough to trigger knee-jerk defensive reactions. Say the word and some people will list the obstacles and struggles they’ve faced just to counter the mere idea that they might possess privilege in any way.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Carrie Jung, NPR
In Kelly Stevens’ kindergarten classroom, each day begins with circle time for what sounds like a menu of lesson options. Students — or “friends” as Stevens calls them — can read at the green table, they can build boats or make things out of clay, among other options. Students Marco Carias Castellanos and Holden Free chose a writing activity today. But there’s no worksheet in front of them. Instead, they’re standing in front of wolf statues they made out of blocks and their assignment is to write labels for body parts. “I’m making an ear!” says Marco. “Ear! E! E! E!” adds Holden. Play-based activities like this one at Curtis Guild School are part of a new curriculum that Boston has been rolling out over the last five years. It’s a deliberate shift away from the “kindergarten as the new first grade,” way of thinking that’s become common in early childhood circles. The thinking is that play, student-led activities and lots of choices work just as well for older kids.
Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week
There are no guardhouses or concertina-topped fences around the Wyoming Girls School. There’s no need; the correctional facility nestles on a rural road off Interstate 90, almost dead-center of the state at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains, and no student has tried to run away in the last seven years. But the school’s openness also highlights its deeper push to help its students consider themselves students again, and think of their educational future after prison. In the past five years, the Girls School has become part of a thin but spreading network of correctional education groups working to make their facilities truly a part of K-12 education. It’s an uphill fight against a long history of notoriously poor education for the nearly 50,000 students in juvenile prisons. An Education Week Research Center analysis of federal civil rights data for 594 of the 633 juvenile justice-facility education programs operating in 2013-14 found their students receive an average of 26 hours a week of instruction—but 15 percent of schools average less than 20 hours a week, and, in some schools, instructional time may be as little as an hour or two.
Kyle Stokes, KPCC
An estimated 4,000 high school juniors on 29 campuses from South Los Angeles to San Pedro got a break from their normal class schedules on Wednesday to take the SAT college prep exam. And none of those students paid a cent to take the test. This year, for the first time, the L.A. Unified School District helped picked up the tab. The College Board, the organization which administers the SAT, offers to waive the registration fee — normally $60 for the full exam — for students who qualify as low-income. But as part of a program L.A. Unified piloted this year in Local District South — the region that oversees schools from Watts to Gardena and Carson, to the Port of L.A. — district officials helped secure students’ fee waivers to take the SAT. The district then picked up the remaining costs for any students who didn’t qualify for a fee waiver. Christopher Downing, who oversees Local District South schools for L.A. Unified, says the pilot program will remove one stumbling block on the road to college, since many four-year universities require students to take the SAT or ACT. But he said some students are unable to afford the registration fee or make a long bus journey on a Saturday to an unfamiliar school to take a lengthy test. “We aren’t just concerned with students graduating from high school,” Downing said. “We’re concerned with providing them opportunities to continue their academic career.”
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
You don’t need us here at Refinery29 to remind you that this past year has been simultaneously challenging and revolutionary for women. Between the steady stream of messages we’ve received from our public officials and the even harsher realities (finally) exposed by the #MeToo movement, we’ve spent much of the past year fixing problems of prejudice and inequity. But as we’re looking inward, International Women’s Day is also an opportunity for us all to look outward. And while we still often treat the education of girls worldwide as some far-flung impossible dream — a pursuit for people exclusively in faraway lands to worry about — the power of young women should be a top priority for both the United States and the rest of the world. According to the United Nations, countries lose more than 1 billion dollars a year by failing to educate girls at the same level as boys. And studies from the Brookings Institution report that just one extra year of secondary school can increase a girl’s future income by 10 to 20%. It’s simple: A truly healthy and prosperous country is one where girls can learn. That’s been the issue at the core of Michelle Obama’s legacy as First Lady, and she’s not stopping now. For International Women’s Day, Michelle Obama and the Obama Foundation teamed up with Refinery29 to shine a light on the importance and urgency of empowering girls around the world — to ensure they can reach their full potential through education and, in turn, support their families, communities, and countries. The result is a Q&A between Mrs. Obama and four young women from Nepal, Ghana, Guatemala, and Chicago, a critical dialogue she hopes will remind us that this is our issue to face, as much as anyone else’s.
Lydia DePillis, CNNMoney
In America, we like to think that everyone should have an equal shot at making a good living.
But plenty of research shows that’s still not the case — your chances of getting ahead depends a lot on the zip code where you were born and racial discrimination still stifles careers. And a new analysis from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis finds that your parents’ socioeconomic status holds a lot of sway, too. The economists sliced data from the Federal Reserve’s triennial Survey of Consumer Finances, which canvassed 6,254 families in 2016 about their demographics and their bank accounts. The main finding: How much money you eventually make has a lot to do with your parents’ race and whether they went to college. Whether you graduated from a four-year college yourself matters as well. But even then, it’s hard to make up for the disadvantages of your upbringing. “In principle, these differences could have been predicted at birth,” the authors wrote. “Inherited demographic characteristics are very important determinants of adult outcomes like education, income and wealth.” How important? Here are a few takeaways.
California’s public college campuses are so diverse, but their faculty and leaders aren’t, a new study says
Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
California’s public colleges and universities face a “drastic disparity” in diversity between their undergraduates, who are overwhelmingly students of color, and their predominantly white faculty and campus leaders, a new study has found. That mismatch can negatively affect student academic success and must be addressed, says the report by the Campaign for College Opportunity, a Los Angeles nonprofit. “Our public colleges and universities have to do more than communicate that they ‘value’ diversity while tolerating its absence,” Michele Siqueiros, the nonprofit’s president, said in a statement. “We can no longer accept excuses that leave out African Americans, Latinx, Asians and women from faculty and leadership positions in our colleges and universities, especially when we know including them on our campuses is key to our students’ success.” The report was issued Tuesday on the 50th anniversary of the East Los Angeles walkouts in which Latino students demanded better educational conditions. It is based on 2016-17 data from the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges.
Public Schools and Private $
In the Public Interest
Public funding of California’s charter schools now tops $6 billion annually. Despite this substantial investment, governments at all levels are unable to proactively monitor the private groups that operate charter schools for fraud and waste. Most public school districts aren’t given adequate resources to oversee operators, especially large charter management organizations (CMOs), while all lack the statutory authority to effectively monitor and hold charter schools accountable. This report builds on existing research to show that, due to this lack of oversight, an untold amount of public funding is being lost each year. Only the tip of the iceberg is visible, but this much is known: total alleged and confirmed fraud and waste in California’s charter schools has reached over $149 million.
Adrian Florido, NPR
Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s education secretary, stood in front of a school library full of high school students and asked them to do something students in Puerto Rico’s public schools aren’t often asked. “Take out your phones,” she said. “Look up the definition of charter school.” A girl’s hand shot up. “A charter school,” the girl read, “is a school that receives government funding but operates independently of the established state school system in which it is located.” Keleher repeated after the girl, putting emphasis on “government funding” and “independently.” The point she really wanted to drive home was that charter schools, while run by private entities, are still public schools. “But everyone is going to take to the streets and say, ‘you want to privatize our schools!'” Keleher told the students. “I don’t. It’s still public money. Your money.” Most of the students in the room had never heard of a charter school. But Keleher knew that before long, her critics – notably the island’s teachers’ unions – would be mobilizing to derail her plan to transform the island’s troubled public school system. Introducing charter schools is a central part of her plan. So Keleher was playing offense. “What charter schools offer,” she told students, “are more opportunities. More options.” That is not how Puerto Rico’s teachers unions and their allies see it. Charter schools continue to be controversial because they are not helpful for students and often hubs for “fraud, waste and mismanagement” because of lagging accountability, according to a 2015 joint report from three groups. Supporters of charter schools say they are good for students because they tend to be high-performing and have the freedom to be innovative.
Julie Halpert, The Atlantic
On a crisp fall morning, parents lined the school’s circular driveway in Audis, BMWs and Land Rovers, among other luxury SUVs, to drop their high-schoolers off at Detroit Country Day School. Dressed in uniforms—boys in button-down shirts, blazers with the school crest, khaki or navy dress pants, and ties; girls in largely the same garb, though without the ties and the option of wearing a skirt—the students entered a lobby adorned with green tiles from the nearby Pewabic Pottery, a legendary Detroit ceramic studio. The school’s facilities rival those of the most exclusive country clubs. Plush green carpet covers the floor of the pristine, naturally lit cafeteria, which serves students many organic, locally grown options provided by the food-service division of a nearby gourmet market. There’s a studio for art mediums including photography and metalworking, and a separate one for painting and drawing; a fibers and textiles class with sewing machines and dress molds allows teens to give fashion design a try, while those interested in the performing arts have access to a studio theater and a professionally designed performing-arts center. Thanks to an indoor field house large enough to host a football game, students can play team sports during the winter months. These vibrant extracurricular settings are counterbalanced by an atmosphere of calm in the classrooms, where the average number of students is 15. The classrooms are teeming with serious learners: 100 percent of seniors are accepted to a four-year college annually, and over the past three years, its graduates have been admitted to more than 132 schools in 32 states and five countries. In 2018, Detroit Country Day boasted 20 national-merit semifinalists. Parents, unsurprisingly, pay dearly for these academics and amenities: High-school tuition is a little over $30,000, with about 20 percent of students receiving financial aid.
Other News of Note
Laura McKenna, The Atlantic
Colleges are assuring students that gun-control activism won’t affect their chances at admission—and affirming their value of civic engagement in the process.